Puerto Rico's Ecology

Course Number
ENVS 607 660
Course Code
Course Key
Course Note
MES Concentration in Env Biology/MSAG Elective
Course Description
Puerto Rico has a varied climate, geology, and topography that combine with with periodic disturbance from hurricanes, landslides, and floods to produce a rich diversity of ecological systems (see Miller and Lugo, 2009). Extraction of the island's natural resources, agricultural production, and industrial, commercial, and residential development have greatly reduced the area of intact systems and put pressure on surviving remnants. Fortunately, there are protected natural areas (see map by Gould et al., 2011) that provide the opportunity to observe ecological patterns and processes of the tropics. We will spend a week exploring the island to capture its varied climate and bedrock represented in the wet forests of El Yunque on igneous rock, dry forests of Guanica on limestone, and dry to moist forests of Susua on serpentinite and Guajataca on limestone. We will also investigate the coastal systems of the Northeast Ecological Corridor, Guanica, and Cabo Rojo including coral reef, seagrass bed, beach, mangrove, rocky headland, and bioluminescent bay. The course will include regular Wednesday night classes leading up to the spring break trip during which we will review the literature and learn about the ecological systems of the island, including Penn research in the Luquillo Experimental Forest (see Harris et al., 2012), and view Taino artifacts from from the Penn Museum collection. Students will research a specific system or location that we will visit and present information on the interaction of abiotic and biotic factors to the class before we leave. Upon our return, students will complete a research project on a topic of interest related to the field trip and present findings and analysis in a class presentation and paper.
Subject Area Vocab